Kentucky Evolution Debate

Wednesday, October 6th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- The word "evolution" has been deleted
from guidelines of what Kentucky public school students should know
and be tested on, the latest blow to a topic many scientists
consider a cornerstone of biology.
State Education Department officials substituted "change over
time" for evolution during a last-minute editing session, said
Associate Education Commissioner Linda Houghton, who oversees the
department's curriculum work.
She cited state "testing sensitivity" guidelines, designed to
keep children from taking a position on subjects such as death,
divorce and animal rights. The list also includes the theory of
evolution, which holds that humans evolved from more primitive
Deputy Commissioner Gene Wilhoit said he and other department
officials saw no need to keep the word evolution in the guidelines
for high school and middle school students.
"The word is a lightning rod that creates a diversion from what
we're teaching, and we did not want to advocate a particular
doctrine or a specific view," Wilhoit said.
Biology teachers said the decision will discourage schools from
covering the topic.
"A lot of teachers are upset about this," said Ken Rosenbaum,
director of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association. "They know
it was done for political reasons. It's either a scientific theory
or it's not. Why don't we just stop calling the sunrise the
The topic is controversial because some view evolution as
inconsistent with their religious beliefs, including the Bible's
account of creation.
In a high-profile decision in August, the Kansas Board of
Education adopted new testing standards that play down the
scientific importance of evolution.
In Kentucky, teachers campaigned for including evolution in
updated state curriculum guidelines. The word was in the final
draft of the guidelines presented to the state Board of Education
in August, but was replaced.
The guidelines do not require approval of the state Board of
Education, though the board can call for changes.
"If we were going to add or remove the word evolution, this
should have been brought to our attention," said Jeffrey Mando, a
board member.